Since an article in Challenge published Thursday afternoon, the small world of French, but also European, military aeronautics has been in turmoil. Indeed, the article reveals the existence of a brand new Medium Altitude Long Endurance combat drone, or MALE, which will be presented for the first time at the 2023 Paris Air Show.
The Aarok drone has been developed for three years in the greatest secrecy by the French company Turgis & Gaillard, with the support of the DGA which supervises contracts and arms developments for the French Armies.
The characteristics of the Aarok drone from Turgis & Gaillard
For the moment, the information made public around this new drone, called Aarok, is relatively limited. At best, we know that the drone will have a maximum take-off mass of 5.5 tonnes, and a carrying capacity of 1.5 tonnes allowing it to implement, for example, 4 guided bombs of 250 kg and 2 medium anti-tank missiles like the Hellfire or the Akheron MP, and that it will have an autonomy of around 25 hours.
In terms of propulsion, the Aarok will initially be equipped with the PT6 turboprop engine from Pratt&Whitney, then the new Ardiden turboprop engine currently being developed by Safran. Above all, the new drone has been designed to be robust, some would say rustic, capable of being operated from rough terrain of 400 to 600 m.
But its most disruptive quality is none other than its price, announced "between €5 and €10 million", i.e. a unit price barely higher than much lighter drones like the TB2 Bayraktar from the Turkish company Baykar, and sometimes much lower than the Heavy MALE drones offering similar performances, such as the American MQ-9 Reaper, the Israeli Eitan or the Turkish Akinci.
A hybrid MALE drone between the TB2 Bayraktar and the MQ9 Reaper
Before going into the details of the analysis, it should be remembered that the information disseminated around the Aarok is very fragmented, and that it should therefore be taken with caution, while waiting for more details and confirmation of the performances announced during flight tests.
In particular, the comparison in terms of unit price of drones is always difficult, to the extent that MALE drones are implemented as a complete autonomous system composed of several drones, but also a control station and a communication station ensuring the connection with the device, making the public unit price often difficult to compare, because it is based on different scopes.
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